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Review: Bumped

April 25, 2011

Title: Bumped
Author: Megan McCafferty
Publisher: Balzer + Bray (Harper Teen)
Pub Date: April 26, 2011
Pages: 336
Format: Galley via Net Galley (Thank you!)

When a virus makes everyone over the age of eighteen infertile, would-be parents are forced to pay teen girls to conceive and give birth to their children, making teens the most prized members of society. 
Sixteen-year-old identical twins Melody and Harmony were separated at birth and had never met until the day Harmony shows up on Melody’s doorstep. Until now, the twins have followed completely opposite paths. Melody has scored an enviable conception contract with a couple called the Jaydens. While they are searching for the perfect partner for Melody to bump with, she is fighting her attraction to her best friend Zen, who is way too short for the job. 
Harmony has spent her whole life in religious Goodside, preparing to be a wife and mother. She believes her calling is to bring Melody back to Goodside and convince her that “pregging” for profit is a sin. But Harmony has secrets of her own that she is running from. 
When Melody is finally matched with the world-famous, genetically flawless Jondoe, both girls’ lives are changed forever. A case of mistaken identity takes them on a journey neither could have ever imagined, one that makes Melody and Harmony realize they have so much more than just DNA in common. — Goodreads

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued and disgusted and totally into the idea of it. I’m one of those girls who has never, ever wanted to be a mom. I don’t like little kids–I don’t know how to deal with them or talk to them or act around them. I personally find the idea of pregnancy revolting. (Think about it–there is a person growing inside of you, living of off you for nine months of your life. Like a parasite.) Now, you can probably imagine how I feel about all of those horrid reality shows about pregnancy–from “I didn’t know I was pregnant!” to “Obese and Pregnant” to “Teen Mom.” 

So, imagine my complete and total delight when I read the “Dear Reader” page of this book, in which McCafferty states that her disgust with how pregnancy, particularly teenage pregnancy, is constantly either glorified or vilified made her want to write a novel exploring the question, “What would happen if only teenagers could reproduce?” 

I did a happy dance, and immediately fell in love with the book. 

McCafferty takes a seriously believable look at how society as whole views and treats pregnancy, celebrity, and technology. In her novel, becoming pregnant as a teenager is the best thing that could happen to you because, more often than not, both “parents” are getting paid to give birth. Compensation comes in the form of thousands of dollars toward college tuition for both the girl and boy involved, plastic surgery for the “mom,” and the best, most comfortable pre- and post-natal care possible. Then on the flip side, religious  people (called Churchies) who are against “pregging for profit” are so radically conservative that they, for the most part, have isolated themselves so far from society that there is almost no way someone raised in that environment could leave and function in “normal” society. 

While reading the novel, the events taking place don’t necessarily seem that extreme. Sure, it’s weird to think of girls signing contracts at the age of 13 to produce kids for a couple, but the girl is doing it because she wants to–no one is forcing her. For me, it wasn’t the idea of “pregging for profit” that was uncomfortable, but the social pressure surrounding it. McCafferty does a superb job of creating a culture that crudely celebrates both sex and pregnancy–for example, tween girls run around wearing shirts that proclaim “Born to Breed,” or sport “FunBumps,” bellies that make the wearer look and feel pregnant. The girls in high school who aren’t preggers idolize those who are. In one particular scene, a male “celebrity” shows up, and teenage girls throw themselves at him, quite literally begging him to get them pregnant. It’s both darkly comedic and truly terrifying. 

Another major player in this novel is technology. Everyone is connected to the MiNet, which allows everyone everywhere to know exactly where and what and who everyone else, everywhere else is doing. It’s basically like streaming reality TV that’s actually, you know, real. In fact, at no point does anyone in the novel talk about watching TV or movies or reading for pleasure–they just log into the MiNet for entertainment purposes. 

Although Bumped is very obviously a satire, and has many laugh out loud moments, it’s also a little bit terrifying. It’s a supremely intelligent look at society’s obsession with celebrity, pregnancy, and technology, and is a dystopian world that is much more realistic than many others I’ve read. If you’re the kind of person who likes your dystopia satirical yet believable, you’ll definitely enjoy Bumped.

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